The Holy Anaphora
“Let us stand well. Let us stand with fear. Let us attend. Let us offer the holy anaphora in peace,” the priest urges. In other words: “Let us stand firmly in all we confessed in the Creed, without being shaken by the heretics. Let us stand with fear, because there is a great danger of us being deceived. Thus when we firmly remain in faith, then let us offer our gifts to God with peace.”
At that point the believers must have in their minds the Lord’s words: “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,… first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (see Matt. 5:23-24).
So once the priest elevates the believers’ souls and the trains of thought from the earthly things to heavenly things, he begins the Eucharistic prayer. Thus he imitates the first Priest, Christ, who thanked God the Father before handing over the mystery of the divine Eucharist.
He also glorifies Him now and hymns Him together with the Angels. He expresses gratitude to Him for all the benefactions He has done for us from the beginning of creation. He thanks Him especially for His Only begotten Son’s coming into the world and for handing over of the mystery of the divine Eucharist. He furthermore narrates what is related to the Mystical Supper, repeating the Lord’s words themselves: “Take, eat…. Drink of it all of you,” (Matthew 26:26-27).
After the priest says, “So remembering this saving commandment and everything which has happened for us, that is, the crucifixion, the burial, the three-day resurrection, the ascension to Heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, the second and glorious coming again,” he concludes with the exclamation: “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, in all and for all…we hymn You, we bless You, we thank You, O Lord, and we beseech You, our God.”
With these words it is as if he is telling the heavenly Father, “We are offering You, our God and Father, that same offering which your Only Begotten Son Himself offered to You. In offering it, we thank You, because He also, in offering it, thanked You. We are not adding anything of our own to this offering of gifts. Because these gifts are not our own work, but Your own creations. Neither is this manner of worship our own invention, but You taught it to us and You urged us to worship You in this manner. For this reason, all that we are offering You is completely Your own.”
At that same moment the priest falls down and fervently begs God. He beseeches that the gifts he has before him may receive His all holy and almighty Spirit and be changed; on the one hand, the bread into the holy Body of Christ itself, on the other hand, the wine into His immaculate Blood itself.
After these prayers, the divine sacred service was completed! The gifts were sanctified! The sacrifice took place! The great victim and slaughter which was sacrificed for the sake of the world, is found before our eyes, on the Holy Altar Table! Because the bread is no longer a type of the Master’s body. It is the all holy Body of the Lord itself, which accepted all those insults…the slaps, the spitting, the wounds, the gall, the crucifixion. The wine is the Blood itself, which sprang forth when the body was being slaughtered. This is the Body, this is the Blood, which took on composition from the Holy Spirit, which was born from the Virgin Mary, which was buried, resurrected on the third day, ascended to Heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father.
Now, we believe that it is thus because the Lord Himself said, “This is My Body…this is My Blood” (Mark 14:22,24.) Also because He Himself commanded the apostles and the whole church: “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19.) He would not have ordered them to repeat this mystery if He did not intend to give them the strength to perform it. And what is this strength? The Holy Spirit. It is this Holy Spirit which performs the mysteries with the priest’s hand and tongue. The liturgist is the servant of the grace of the Holy Spirit, without offering anything of his own self. For this reason it is not important if perhaps he himself is full of sins. Something like this does not falsify the offering of gifts, which are always pleasing to God, just as medicine constructed by a person unrelated to medical science does not lose its therapeutic effect, so long as it was constructed according to the doctor’s directions.
So once the sacrifice is completed, the priest, seeing the pledge of divine philanthropy, the Lamb of God, before him, thanks and begs. He thanks God for all the saints, because in their person the Church found that which she is seeking, the Kingdom of Heaven. Particularly—”especially”—he thanks for the most blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, because she exceeds every holiness. The priest beseeches for all the believers—those reposed and those living—because they have not yet reached perfection and have need of prayer.